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MINISTRY OF HEALTH DEALS WITH MOSQUITOES, THE THREAT OF DENGUE FEVER
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS (September 10, 2007): Starting today, Monday, September 10, staff of the Port Health Unit that’s stationed at Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport will begin placing ovitraps strategically throughout the airport to help them detect the presence of the Ae aegypti mosquito.
The standard ovitrap is a small, glass jar with a wide mouth.
So, why place ovitraps around the airport?
Well, the Ministry of Health’s Department of Environmental Health, which supervises the port health surveillance system, is doing this in response to the outbreak of dengue fever in Puerto Rico. Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes mainly in tropical and subtropical areas. In Puerto Rico, more than 3200 suspected cases of dengue fever have been reported since January.
According to the Web site of the World Health Organization (WHO), ovitraps are particularly useful for the early detection of new infestations. For this reason, the World Health Organization says ovitraps are used for surveillance at international ports of entry, particularly airports. The WHO says this is in compliance with international sanitary regulations because international ports of entry should be maintained free of vector breeding.
And that’s where the port health unit at RLB International Airport comes into the picture. Alex Riley, who supervises the port health surveillance system, explained to SKNIS Express what the port health unit at the airport will be doing from today.
“We’re trying to do ovitrapping at the airport,” said Mr. Riley, “to verify whether or not we have the Ae aegypti mosquito present at the airport. This is basically where we set some glass with water and some hay infusion, which attracts mosquitoes to come and lay their eggs. We’ll be able to send it to CAREC [the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre] in Trinidad so they could do analysis as to the type of mosquitoes we have present at the airport.”
The hay infusion that Alex Riley referred to is made by soaking dried plant material in water over a period of time. According to the World Health Organization, an ovitrap enhanced with hay infusion has been shown to be a “very reproducible and efficient method for Ae aegypti surveillance in urban areas.” Moreover, studies done by CAREC, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the WHO have shown that ovitraps baited with hay infusion are far more effective at attracting mosquito eggs than ovitraps that just have plain water in them.
Coupled with the ovitrapping, the port health unit at RLB International also has a public awareness campaign it unveiled last month. This campaign is in the form of a pamphlet titled “Dengue Alert”, which the St. Kitts-Nevis Ministry of Health produced.
“We have printed some pamphlets to give to people traveling to Puerto Rico,” said Mr. Riley, adding that, “so once they go to Puerto Rico and they come back, they’ll know exactly what signs and symptoms to look for and if they have any of these then they could go to the nearest health centre or to their doctor.”
According to Immigration figures SKNIS Express received on Sunday from RLB International Airport, for the week of Saturday, September 1 to Saturday, September 8, 962 people arrived from Puerto Rico while 256 people departed RLB for there.
Mikian Browne is one of the port health officers responsible for distributing pamphlets. Port health officers also collect both the general declaration of health and empty disinfectant canisters upon a plane’s arrival. The empty canisters provide proof of disinfection of aircrafts. [To hear an interview with Mikian Browne, log on to www.gov.kn and click on SKNIS Audio and Visual Programming to access the September 10th edition of SKNIS Express.]
The “Dengue Alert” pamphlet outlines the symptoms of both dengue fever and dengue haemorrhagic fever, as well as the suggested treatment for the fever. Dengue fever symptoms include severe frontal headaches, as well as pain behind the eyes, which worsens with eye movement. Dengue haemorrhagic fever symptoms include severe and continuous stomach pains and pale, cold clammy skin. Treatment includes drinking plenty of fluids, and bed rest. There is one caveat: DO NOT USE Aspirin or Aspirin-like drugs.
The pamphlet also details steps to control dengue fever, such as removing mosquito breeding sites and removing articles that collect water from the garbage.
Rest assured: the Department of Environmental Health in the Ministry of Health already does a pretty good job of this, according to Alex Riley.
“We have vector control officers throughout the islands and they do daily routine inspections to ensure that premises are free of these containers or receptacles,” explained Mr. Riley.
So where do they go? “Around the yard, inside the house, wherever they need to inspect to ensure that no water is settling,” he added.
The Ministry of Health opened port health units in early March: three in St. Kitts at RLB International Airport; the deep water port, and Port Zante, and two in Nevis at Vance Amory International Airport and the Charlestown Port. This move is related to a PAHO/WHO pilot project that St. Kitts-Nevis signed on to in June 2005 along with Barbados; Dominica; St. Lucia; the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago to develop competence in port health surveillance. The PAHO document on the project background and origin states that, “Jamaica was later for inclusion as a project country.”
On March 13, representatives of Barbados’s Ministry of Health arrived in St. Kitts to assist with port health surveillance during the high peak period of ICC Cricket World Cup. Three environmental health officers and a port health nurse came to support port health unit staff upon the request of our Ministry of Health.